Monthly Archives: October 2016

Dear <my MP>,

I’m afraid this is going to be a long one, so it might be best to grab a cup of tea first.

I am seriously concerned about what the Conservative government is doing to the economy, to British society, to human beings in need of compassion and to our reputation globally.

In your reply to me dated 23rd September, you reiterated Mrs May’s assertion that “Brexit means Brexit” and that 17 million people voted to leave the EU. The government keeps insisting that this is what the referendum suggested and they are damn well going to implement the result. I eagerly await the outcome of the ongoing legal challenge to Mrs May’s attempt to usurp parliamentary sovereignty by use of the royal prerogative. As you and I both know, leaving the EU is not simply a matter of making or leaving treaties. Leaving the EU will fundamentally change the way the UK does business, how British society functions and, indeed, looks perilously like it will actually destroy the UK itself. To do this on the back a wafer-thin majority on an non-binding referendum (a majority that Mr Farage himself said he would call “unfinished business”) beggars belief, particularly in light of surveys now coming in suggesting that there are enough people who regret voting “Leave” to swing the result in favour of “Remain”.

The referendum should never have happened in the first place. The only reason it did happen was the combination of the fact that Mr Cameron was too weak to stand up to UKIP before the 2015 election and the fact that the Conservative party scraped a piddling little majority in the Commons. Mr Cameron never expected to be able to keep that promise, as he fully expected to be in coalition again. To win a majority in 2015 was a disaster for him.

The referendum campaign was appalling to behold. Neither side covered themselves in glory, but the leave campaigns (for they were plural) were based on bare-faced lies and racial hatred. Johnson and Gove lied about the amount of money we send to the EU, and they lied about there being a chance that would be spent on the NHS. They also promised us that EU citizens currently resident and working in the UK would be allowed to stay, yet they both voted against that exact policy in the Commons last week.

The Parliamentary petition “Make it illegal for any UK political figure to knowingly lie or mislead” gathered 78,467 signatures, largely on the back of the despair felt by upstanding people for the contempt in which we had been held by our elected representatives in the referendum campaign. The government’s response quoted Lord Nolan: “The 7 principles of public life apply to those who hold public office. This includes people who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally.” I assume that this response was supposed to placate us. Telling me that Boris Johnoson, for example, is bound by the 7 principles just insults me. Let’s look at Mr Johnson’s performance on a couple of them, shall we?

Selflessness: Mr Johnson, previously strongly Europhile, stood on the opposite side in the campaign from Mr Cameron purely so he could further his career within the party. It worked out quite well for him, personally, too.

Honesty: he lied about £350m, he lied about funding the NHS, he lied about Turkey joining the EU if we remain (If we are members of the EU, Turkey cannot join without our consent; if we leave the EU, they could join without our consent: if he really cared about keeping them out, he should advise us to remain); he lied about giving current EU citizens the right to stay on as they are in a post-Brexit Britain; he lied about the possibility of us maintaining access to the Single Market without allowing free movement.

The Cabinet Office dismissing the clearly expressed concern of 78000 people by saying that MPs are bound by these rules, yet failing to enforce those rules is unacceptable. Either Mr Johnson, Mr Gove and others are above the law and the Cabinet Office should have the honesty and integrity to tell us this explicitly, or they are not and the Cabinet Office should haul them over the coals for their clear, specific, obvious and flagrant breaches of the rules.

Mr Gove’s insistence that we are sick of experts is another example of utterly irresponsible behaviour from an elected minister. I daresay, should he require emergency surgery, he would prefer that an expert wield the knife, rather than Izzy the bin lady (who is, after all, an expert in her own field). The reason we listen to experts is because they are experts. They know stuff.

As for Mr Farage and his speeches and posters designed to incite racial hatred, that man should find himself in front of a judge. His “breaking point” advert was a carbon copy of a Nazi poster from the ’30’s, and should be treated that way. His use of refugees fleeing a warzone as a political tool was wrong on so many levels it’s hard to begin. Our obligations to accept refugees is independent of our membership of the EU; incitement of racial hatred is a crime; for a prominent politician to be spouting blatant racial slurs legitimises racism in wider society. We have already seen a sharp increase in racist incidents since the referendum, flames fanned recently by Amber Rudd and Theresa May at the Conservative conference.

The pound continues to slide, the banks are already planning to leave, Nissan have no reason to stay. The EU has no reason whatsoever to make life easy for us and every reason to make it difficult, yet Mrs May and the government keep insisting that we will have a successful deal and that Article 50 will be invoked early next year. It’s almost as if we’re holding a shotgun to our own faces: it’s a bit worrying at the moment, but it doesn’t hurt too much, it can’t be be any worse when we pull the trigger now, can it?

In her conference speech, Mrs May kept on talking about citizens. Citizens this, citizens that. The implication is that people who are not citizens are people we can ignore and quietly get rid of. We don’t much like them: they are not like us. Ms Rudd’s speech was, arguably, worse and, as demonstrated by LBC’s James O’Brien, largely indistinguishable from chapter 2 of Mein Kampf.

Immigrants bring skills and workers to the UK and have been proven, time and again, to be a net contributor to the exchequer. Blaming immigrants for strain on local schools and health services is beneath contempt. It is for the government to spend this increased income on the services required by the communities where the need has arisen. It is not my fault if I give you £20 for the food that I eat in your house and you spend it on a new jacket. If the government is hell-bent on running schools and GPs into the ground because they are allergic to spending money on people, they should admit this publically. To blame the brown faces in a community for the government’s unwillingness to supply the need that the brown-faced people are paying for is insulting, degrading, divisive and straight out of the UKIP playbook.

Blaming the EU for large immigration numbers is also disingenuous when immigration from outside the EU is very high. If the government is so keen to reduce immigration, it could do that easily by curbing the immigration that we can control rather than blaming the EU for it.

Complaining that foreign immigrants do not integrate well into British society is also disingenuous when you look at British ex-pat communities overseas. Spain is probably the most egregious example, where whole towns are, more-or-less reserved for Brits who spend their whole time speaking English, talking only to English people and being unpleasant to Spanish business owners for having the audacity to be Spanish in Spain.

Mrs May is quite vocal on the “first safe country” rule. Of course she would be. To get here from any of our current active warzones, you have to cross thousands of miles of EU territory, all of which will count as a safe first country. Hiding behind that rule is simply a way to side-step our obligations as a humanitarian nation. We pride ourselves on being nice, on being compassionate, on welcoming Jews fleeing before the Nazis. But we’re quite happy for all of that welcome to have been seventy years ago. These days, we’d rather you stayed in Greece, Italy, France or, frankly, you drowned in the sea. If we do, grudgingly, let in a few refugees, then they’d better damn well look like refugees. If we said “children”, then they’d better look like children. Preferably young, preferably crying and holding a cute, torn teddy or something. No. Yet another cabinet minister suggested unethical, inaccurate and demeaning dental checks for all the people we have deigned to rescue. They should be grateful, after all, and we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

We need a few tens of millions to pay for ammunition, personnel, equipment and so on to bomb Syria back to the stone age? Sure, we’ll find it. Can we take a few dozen children in so their families can look after them here? You must be joking. They’d be much better off being vanished away from the Jungle never to be heard of again until they show up in an unmarked grave in the woods, having outlived their usefulness as a child prostitute somewhere in a quiet corner of the black economy.

“Did the British Public, so concerned about immigration before the election, condemn us when we saw the photograph of that little Syrian boy [Aylan Kurdi]? No. They told us to open our arms.”

Heidi Allen MP

Andrew Lansley gutted the NHS and now Mr Hunt is intent on destroying it entirely. The service is chronically underfunded. It is already the most efficient health service in the Western world, and trying to squeeze more out of it for less money is, frankly, a joke. The “7-day NHS” rubbish is simply a bat to beat Junior Doctors with. Every time a person needs urgent care on the NHS, it is there. The ambulance service runs 7-days a week, emergency departments run 7-days a week. The labs, x-rays, porters, nurses, etc. etc. all run 7-days per week too. We already have a 7-day NHS where we need it. Asking the service to extend non-emergency cover by 40% at the same time as squeezing funding, cutting training of new nurses and refusing to guarantee that EU-citizens working in the NHS will be allowed to stay is, once again, utterly irresponsible.

We are reaching the point where people are going to start losing their lives because the government can’t be bothered to fund the NHS properly, and the Health Secretary is running around screaming and scapegoating the junior doctors. Mrs May suggests that there isn’t going to be any more money for the NHS any time soon.

It is the most efficient system in the world, and free at the point of delivery. We should be proud of that, not embarrassed that it is not in the private sector.

David Clapson is dead. He died in his flat, with 5p on his phone, £3.44 in his bank, with almost no food in the house and no electricity to power the fridge to keep his insulin cool. In short, he starved to death. Now, I’m not suggesting that there is a proven causal link between him having his benefits sanctioned and him being unable to buy enough food or electricity to keep himself alive, but I raise it as a possibility.

He’s not the only one, of course. This article makes me cry.

How has it come to pass that a nation who likes to tell the world that we’re warm, welcoming and compassionate and that we stand up for the little guy has become cold-hearted and angry to the point that we label our starving poor as “scroungers” who are probably either playing the system or outright cheating it. One wonders if we should be putting greater emphasis on benefit cheats or on tax avoiders.

“Sending a message to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society that we do not care [does not pass the Family Test].”

Heidi Allen MP

We have already had a conversation about the Investigatory Powers bill. Quite why the government is so keen to replicate the Internet policies of China, Iran and North Korea is beyond me.

Privacy is important.

Do you sing in the shower? Would you sing in the shower if you thought I was sitting in the next room and might hear you? Would you sing if you thought I might be sitting in the next room and might hear you? The fact that I might be listening is enough to change your behaviour, whether or not I actually am.

The government defines British values as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” In the absence of privacy, we do not have individual liberty.

I am, of course, well used to politicians’ lies and hypocrisy, but that has never made it easy to stomach.

In addition, the fact that it is trivial for a competent criminal to avoid the mass-surveillance described in this law makes it clear to me that this is yet another security law designed purely for show, not for effect. History suggests that the metadata databases will be used for petty law-breaking. History also suggests that the metadata databases will get cracked, stolen and/or leaked. Anyone who has their data stolen will have their lives laid bare for all to see. How would you feel if your (hypothetical) frantic Google searches for “I’m suicidal: please help” or “depression helpline” or “my husband is abusing me” ended up all over social media?

This bill is soon to become law, and it stinks.

I’m stopping there, you’ll be pleased to know.

In summary, your government is despicable. The compassionate Conservatives you mentioned in your maiden speech do not appear to exist. The cabinet is full of rich white people intent on cutting us off from Europe and turning us into an inward-looking, tribalist band of haters who long for a mythical good old days where being British was a guarantee of special treatment on the world stage, where we could do what we liked to everyone without consequence and where we didn’t have to put up with those nasty foreigners.

It has become normal for politicians to tell bare-faced lies to get what they want, and to walk away from promises as soon as the election is over.

I implore you to do what you can to keep us in the EU, to stand up for refugees, to get proper funding for the NHS, to stand against human rights abuses wrought by your Conservative government, to ensure our privacy as private citizens, to end the government-induced deaths of benefit claimants, and to be the compassionate Conservative you are proud to be. I believe you may be the last one.

Yours in some despair,

JOTA 2016 at Gilwell Park

When Scouting was young, back in 1919, the Gilwell Park estate was purchased for the Scout Association by William de Bois Maclaren. It has served as the headquarters for the Scout movement ever since and is frequently spotted with tents for as many as 3,000 people to attend large Scouting events.

It was to this venerable site that I made my way on a cold and rainy Sunday morning this week. The camp ground was populated by a small handful of damp-looking Scouts making the most of the morning brightness, no doubt, to contemplate packing up wet tents into soggy bags ready for the moist journey home. They did seem to be enjoying themselves, however, and I let them get about their business while I scoured the site for the hub of the Jamboree On The Air.

It was the 59th time that a stack of Radio Amateurs across the world have teamed up with the Scouts to host an international gathering of Scouts, where young people on every continent can meet up and chat with one another without even having to go outside. I was very keen to see how it was done, having been a Radio Amateur since I was 15 but only a member of the Scout Association since last year.

The station set up was impressive, with three large masts erected outside pointing huge antennas in all directions, connected to three main radio units in the nearby classroom. The classroom had a roof, which was a good thing, because the rain didn’t let up until lunch time, and there was another deluge mid-afternoon. Inside, however, was warm and dry and the people there made me feel very welcome indeed.

On 40m (7MHz), Sian was working up and down the UK, talking to dozens of Scout groups throughout the day, including one contact that lasted an hour and a half, during which, she received something like 50 messages from Scouts, Cubs and Beavers, many of whom were completing the last stage of their Communicator Badge. On 20m (14MHz), Oscar was working into Eastern Europe, taking calls from Sweden, Italy, Ukraine and Russia (and, towards the end of the afternoon, as far as Thailand). On 15m (21MHz), Dave was using his computer to talk across Eastern Europe as well, using very narrow-band data format PSK-31; as the afternoon wore on, he turned the antenna around and was chatting with the USA. Also in the room, Alan was using EchoLink software on his computer to chat to stations all across the world, including Brazil and Japan. EchoLink is a weird cross between amateur radio and the internet where some links are on the ‘net and others use radios.

After lunch, Sian had her back turned and I pounced on the 40m radio and made my first ever contact on that band with a Scout group in Great Yarmouth, followed immediately by one out to the West of London. It’s been a very long time since I picked up a radio, and this moment was one of great significance for me. Having returned the controls to Sian, I returned to chatting with the young people about what radio is, what it does and how you can talk to people so far away.

By half-three, I was exhausted, so I ran away, but the team still had another hour and a half to go. I salute them.

With luck and a following breeze, I’ll run a station myself for my own Scout group, and we can look forward to chatting with the Gilwell Park station and exchanging greeting messages with them.  Should be a giggle.

I’m a liberal and I’m OK: I sleep all night and I work all day

Our glorious prime minister, Theresa May, is sick of the liberal elites.

Well, that’s OK then. It’s good to know. Because we wouldn’t want her to be sick of the old-money ruling-class elites who are actually sitting in the Cabinet and running our newspapers. Because they are the good guys. Those elites tell the plebs how to vote; those elites tell bare-faced lies to people in order to swing a vote, then tell us that the people have spoken and we have to respect the will of the people.

It’s not just Donald Trump’s wife who has been accused of plagiarism in making political speeches. At the Tory conference, last week, Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s speech seems to have been lifted more-or-less directly from Mein Kampf. It seems that it is now Government policy to turn neighbour against neighbour, to force companies to declare foreigners in their midst, and for schools to list all those nasty immigrant children.

In the meantime, the Jungle (refugee camp at Calais) is still home to a large number of human beings who just want to be accepted somewhere, their homes and livelihoods having been destroyed by war. Hundreds of unaccompanied children with family connections to the UK are still stuck there, months after the Commons had a dithering match about whether or not we could be arsed, as a nation, about their welfare. As far as I can work out, the answer has been a resounding “no, we really don’t give a shit about brown people currently in another country.”

Theresa May told the UN that refugees should settle in the first safe country they encounter. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Well, translating that into English is “you stinky brown people need to stop heading our way as soon as you reach Italy or Germany. We don’t want you to be our problem, so stop where you are and you will be someone else’s problem.”

We are a nation of immigrants. Encoded in our overly-complicated language is the DNA of a dozen countries: travellers, immigrants, raiders, invaders, conquerors, traders and visitors. The last of the pure-bred English were driven West into Wales centuries ago. Those of us out in the East would do well to remember where we came from before we start telling others that they can’t join the party.

We are a Christian nation with an established church. This is constantly amusing to me (I am not a member of said established church, but never mind). Our country is vastly more secular than the USA and the USA has a constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. But I digress. We are supposed to be a Christian nation. A truly Christ-like nation would care for the widow and the orphan, would welcome the stranger, would care for the sick and clothe the naked. So far, we score points on caring for the sick, but the last few Health Secretaries have been working hard to consign that to history. On every other count, we suck.

On the other side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, Donald Trump has been seen on the telly prowling around behind Hillary Clinton while she was trying to address the audience in the recent presidential debate. Classy move. Almost as classy as dismissing his past behaviour (bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy”, apparently) as mere “locker-room talk”. Which is exactly the kind of thing that rapists have been using to defend their actions for a hundred years. Sorry, Trumpy baby, it doesn’t hold water.

But then, I’m just a limp-wristed liberal. If I wanted to leave behind the liberal elite and join the proper elite (the good one, the one we all want ruling), I should take the advice of the late duke of Westminster. When asked what advice he had for young entrepreneurs who wanted to be as successful as him, he replied “Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror“.

Stop the world, I want to get off.